Thursday, January 14, 2010



"Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". Ubuntu also means "I am what I am because of who we all are".

It is difficult to comprehend the degree of suffering and the scope of loss the Haitian people are experiencing. In the unfathomable devastation of the earthquake’s wake, let us do is everything we can do to help in the relief and rescue efforts.

Haiti: How to Help

If you're looking to donate to emergency assistance in Haiti, these organizations are among the most effective:

Doctors Without Borders, which already had teams working on medical projects in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, has treated hundreds of injured people and is working to get more staff into the country. Doctors are setting up medical facilities in tents, since their own buildings have been severely damaged.

Partners in Health, an aid organization that "is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone," is working to coordinate 120 doctors and 500 nurses on the ground in Haiti, evaluating how best to respond to the crisis. PIH's flagship project is based in Haiti, and it's where the organization's broadest range of resources are located. Donations "will go directly to our relief efforts on the ground, which currently involve organizing the logistics to get the medical staff and supplies needed for setting up field hospital sites in Port-au-Prince where we can triage patients, provide emergency care, and send those who need surgery or more complex treatment to our functioning hospitals and surgical facilities," according to the organization's development coordinator. Updated information can be found here.

Oxfam dispatched a team of specialists to Haiti, and is working to send badly needed medical supplies. The organization is concentrating on water and sanitation, to prevent the outbreak of waterborne diseases in the wake of the crisis. You can read about that work here. Oxfam's humanitarian coordinator in Port-au-Prince said, "Our immediate priorities will be providing safe water and shelter material for the people who have lost their homes. Many people have lost their homes and were sleeping out in the open last night. There has been no rain yet, but there was rain earlier in the week and if it comes again it will make the situation much worse for all those made homeless by this quake.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a starting place for organizations that have a reliable and established helping presence in Haiti. If you have any information on ways to support relief efforts, please feel free to share here.

It is also time to begin to reflect on Haiti’s history and the relationships that have contributed to its extreme poverty and fragility. What makes Haiti so different from its Caribbean neighbors who enjoy a relative level of comfort and insulation against crisis?

In 1804, the imported African slaves that were brought to work the island revolted against their colonial rulers and established the first free black state in the modern world. Haiti also is the first independent nation in Latin America and the only nation born of a slave rebellion.

In 1825, after encountering a decade of fierce resistance, France recognized the independence of the new republic in exchange for a payment of 150 million francs as indemnity for profits lost from the slave trade. Reparations have been exacted ever since: from invasion and occupation--to deforestation and exploitation of natural resources--to neoliberal policies that have flooded the country with cheap agricultural surplus and forced its people into urban sweatshops—to the deliberate undermining of its political stability by the abduction of its democratically elected leaders. These historical relationships at least in part help to inform the vulnerability that exacerbated the impact of natural disaster.

In the spirit of Ubuntu, that once led Haiti to emerge as the first independent black nation , let us embrace the spirit of community, solidarity, and generosity to rebuild Haiti in its own image.

No comments: